Bogota – Elephants, lions, bears, tigers, monkeys and other wild animals will no longer be permitted in circuses in Colombia under a bill approved by Congress.
The legislation covers "native and exotic" animals, which account for a small percentage of the circus acts in the country.
Circus industry executives, however, have expressed opposition to the bill, calling it unfair.
"In Colombia, there are about 25 circuses and they exist because people like the traditional circus, the one with clowns, with animals, with goodies, the one for photos," Raul Gasca, a member of a circus dynasty that got its start in Mexico more than 70 years ago, said.
The businessman, who has traveled the world with the Circo de los Hermanos Gasca, said the legislation was "unfair" and "unbalanced" because it only affected circuses.
House of Representatives speaker Augusto Posada disagrees, however, telling Efe that the bill, which was approved earlier this month and is expected to be signed by the president, is of "vital importance" in defending animal rights.
Posada, who drafted the legislation, said circus operators will have until 2015 to comply with the new regulations.
Of the 25 large circuses operating in Colombia, 18 have animal acts, while the owners of the other seven have shifted to acts that do not use animals, industry representatives said.
The legislation does not prohibit circuses from using domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats and horses, in acts.